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Thread: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

  1. #1

    Default Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Hi All, newbie here.

    I've been playing guitar for about 62 years but have taken to the Mando over recent months. I have a Loar LM-700-VS which has been professionally set up but I'm hankering after a significant upgrade and am attracted to a Collings MT or MT2 with maybe a wide nut, maybe oval hole, maybe new or used (to go with my Collings CJ35). I'm looking for ease of play for these old arthritic hands and a relatively mellow sound rather than a harsh bluegrass chop.

    My question, which I trust you Mando folks will have some opinion upon, is 'will I see/feel a significant difference between a $1k Loar and a $4-5k Collings'?

    Whichever way I go I'll most likely have to import from the US as high end instruments are very few and far between here in England. Anyone have any experience of personally importing an instrument?

    What do you reckon guys?

    Al

  2. #2
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Hard to go wrong with a Collings. Buy a used MT / MT2 oval $2K to $3.2K from these Cafe classifieds if that is what you are considering. I really liked my previous Collings but it was more suitable to what you describe as your genre of music rather than the classic country honky-tonk I usually play. I never played a Collings that was not easy to play. With any Collings you are looking at it would be an upgrade.
    Just my humble opinion.
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  4. #3
    Mando-Afflicted lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    It is not that the Loar LM700 isn’t really nice and surely sounds great, but the Collings mandolins are superbly crafted, play easily and sound wonderful. You will certainly benefit from this upgrade. Otherwise, I think you have a wonderful instrument.
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  5. #4

    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Quote Originally Posted by Pittsburgh Bill View Post
    Hard to go wrong with a Collings. Buy a used MT / MT2 oval $2K to $3.2K from these Cafe classifieds if that is what you are considering. I really liked my previous Collings but it was more suitable to what you describe as your genre of music rather than the classic country honky-tonk I usually play. I never played a Collings that was not easy to play. With any Collings you are looking at it would be an upgrade.
    Just my humble opinion.
    Don't think you will find better advice than this.

  6. #5

    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Why not explore some accomplished builders in England Scotland Wales or Ireland.
    I believed the cost of shipping, insurance, exchange and importation is rather pricey when purchasing from North America. You have some great builders on your side of the pond! And yes Collings instruments are excellent!
    Put that extra upfront costs into a local purchase and towards the price of the actual instrument.
    I found this link of builders which may be of help to you.
    https://4allmusic.com/selection-luth...-luthiers-ukHi

  7. #6
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    I think you'll notice a significant difference between The Loar and a Collings. Before importing you might try contacting Trevor at TAMCO down in Brighton - he stocks Collings, Pava, Girouard, Weber, Ellis to name a few.
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  9. #7
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    I’d second what Jill says with respect to contacting Trevor but I suspect that, because of covid, his stocks are somewhat limited at the moment. I’m not sure how believable his website is at the moment - it hasn’t been updated for 12 months - but I am aware that he’s in the process of migratint to a new site so an email is probably your best bet.

    Welcome to the forum. Where in the UK are you?

  10. #8
    Registered User trevor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Hi Ray,

    In terms of stock my website is up to date.
    Trevor
    The Acoustic Music Co (TAMCO) Brighton England
    Over 100 mandolins in stock.
    www.theacousticmusicco.co.uk.

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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Al: Trevor has several good looking Collings in stock, as well as some Webers, Northfield, Old Wave, etc. It might be a good time for a field trip (depending on Covid restrictions). The link to his Collings mandolins:

    https://www.theacousticmusicco.co.uk...andolins-.html

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  14. #10

    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Hi Al,
    No experience here with top-notch instruments, but if you can travel a bit, perhaps you’d do best trying out an instrument; most folks say the right one speaks to you. Taking your (very nice) present one with you also eliminates some psychological and acoustic variables, and don’t be shy about playing in front of shop guys!
    I’m thinking that buying that very personal, forever instrument by post is akin to ordering up a mail-order bride.

  15. #11
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    The tonal differences, not to mention materials , fit and finish between a Collings and a Loar mandolin are manifold and definitely worth the investment. You may want another mandolin somewhere down the line as differences in tone may "call" you. But a Collings is worth keeping around and playing as a permanent part of your mandolin "stable". R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  16. #12
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    I just got back into mandolin a year or so back. It a tough decision if you have to buy unplayed as you have to go on reviews and that can be like looking for a needle in a haystack to find an informative review instead of an opinionated one. In my case not knowing much I went with a brand name I was familiar with owning an archtop and acoustic of that brand. Quality wise is was pretty well built and in the $600 range. After playing around on it for a few months I found that I didn't care for it tonally, it was just too bright for my liking and what genres I had interest in. I wanted a more mellow tone so I was thrown back in the search, listening to vids, reading reviews etc. I still wound up buying another online and unplayed hoping I had made the right decision as I was going from a $600 to $3000 instrument. Tonal wise it made a big difference and what I was looking for. Playability wise I don't know if I'd say there was a $2400 improvement. I've played guitar all my life and in the learning my way around phase on mandolin.

    Actually playing a variety of brands is your best bet if that's possible. It was not in my case. I know a little more than I did when I started. Regardless I don't know enough and if I did I'd be very hesitant to recommend a certain instrument brand as what I liked you may not. All I knew was that I wanted an A Style and got one with f-holes and still don't know if an oval hole would be even more to my liking. I'm not much help but only you'll know much more definitely what you're after by actually playing a variety and that's subject to change over time.

    I stopped playing out about 6 or so years ago so all my playing is for me and home and I could care less about jamming, I don't even like the word jam. I'd like to simply play some tunes with someone if there was anyone but that's not looking likely.

  17. #13
    Distressed Model John Ritchhart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Definitely go see Trevor and put your hands on all of them and listen to the fine differences. You'll know it when you find it.
    We few, we happy few.

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  19. #14
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Quote Originally Posted by CBFrench View Post
    I still wound up buying another online and unplayed hoping I had made the right decision as I was going from a $600 to $3000 instrument. Tonal wise it made a big difference and what I was looking for. Playability wise I don't know if I'd say there was a $2400 improvement. I've played guitar all my life and in the learning my way around phase on mandolin.
    My experience has been differences in mandolins when upgrading are usually construction detail, quality of components, tonal and volume. Finding a $2.4k differential in playability is unlikely. Even a 100 dollar Rogue with no structural issues and set-up properly should play well. Perhaps not as well as as $3k instrument, but still pretty well.
    Last edited by Pittsburgh Bill; Mar-16-2021 at 2:20pm.
    Stiver A style (MAS has stopped here)
    Kentucky KM-950
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Rogue 100A (current campfire tool)
    Harley Benton A style (grandchildren's learner)

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  21. #15

    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry Canada View Post
    Why not explore some accomplished builders in England Scotland Wales or Ireland.
    I believed the cost of shipping, insurance, exchange and importation is rather pricey when purchasing from North America. You have some great builders on your side of the pond! And yes Collings instruments are excellent!
    Put that extra upfront costs into a local purchase and towards the price of the actual instrument.
    I found this link of builders which may be of help to you.
    https://4allmusic.com/selection-luth...-luthiers-ukHi

    Hi Barry,

    Thanks for your suggestion. I know there are most likely some very good mandolin luthiers here in UK but it's not that easy to identify the really good ones from 'run of the mill' builders unless you go for the Stefan Sobells or NK Forsters of this world - (don't think Stefan is building Mandos now anyway) and at my age I haven't got time to wait for an extended build time! Also, if guitars are anything to go by I simply prefer the sound of American made instruments, hence my Collings CJ35, Bourgeois Custom OM and custom SantaCruz 0012 Skye.

    Nevertheless, I appreciate your time in responding.

    Al

  22. #16

    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    I’d second what Jill says with respect to contacting Trevor but I suspect that, because of covid, his stocks are somewhat limited at the moment. I’m not sure how believable his website is at the moment - it hasn’t been updated for 12 months - but I am aware that he’s in the process of migratint to a new site so an email is probably your best bet.

    Welcome to the forum. Where in the UK are you?
    Hi Ray,

    As you mention TAMCO's stock is rather depleted and I don't think he has any A Style Mandos with a pick guard. I tend to intermittently anchor on the pick guard.

    Thanks for your welcome, I'm based in Leicestershire not far from Market Harborough.

    Al

  23. #17

    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    Hi Al,
    No experience here with top-notch instruments, but if you can travel a bit, perhaps you’d do best trying out an instrument; most folks say the right one speaks to you. Taking your (very nice) present one with you also eliminates some psychological and acoustic variables, and don’t be shy about playing in front of shop guys!
    I’m thinking that buying that very personal, forever instrument by post is akin to ordering up a mail-order bride.

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for your reply. I don't think travelling about just now, particularly to test drive a few Mandos, is classed as 'essential travel' I don't know where you are but we're still in fairly severe lockdown her in UK. Would that I could!

    And don't worry, I'm not shy about displaying my incompetence. (You can get away with plenty when you're old and grey)!

    Al

  24. #18
    Registered User trevor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Hi Al,

    This is the only on that comes to mind with a pick guard.

    https://www.theacousticmusicco.co.uk...andolins-.html
    Trevor
    The Acoustic Music Co (TAMCO) Brighton England
    Over 100 mandolins in stock.
    www.theacousticmusicco.co.uk.

  25. #19

    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Quote Originally Posted by CBFrench View Post
    I just got back into mandolin a year or so back. It a tough decision if you have to buy unplayed as you have to go on reviews and that can be like looking for a needle in a haystack to find an informative review instead of an opinionated one. In my case not knowing much I went with a brand name I was familiar with owning an archtop and acoustic of that brand. Quality wise is was pretty well built and in the $600 range. After playing around on it for a few months I found that I didn't care for it tonally, it was just too bright for my liking and what genres I had interest in. I wanted a more mellow tone so I was thrown back in the search, listening to vids, reading reviews etc. I still wound up buying another online and unplayed hoping I had made the right decision as I was going from a $600 to $3000 instrument. Tonal wise it made a big difference and what I was looking for. Playability wise I don't know if I'd say there was a $2400 improvement. I've played guitar all my life and in the learning my way around phase on mandolin.

    Actually playing a variety of brands is your best bet if that's possible. It was not in my case. I know a little more than I did when I started. Regardless I don't know enough and if I did I'd be very hesitant to recommend a certain instrument brand as what I liked you may not. All I knew was that I wanted an A Style and got one with f-holes and still don't know if an oval hole would be even more to my liking. I'm not much help but only you'll know much more definitely what you're after by actually playing a variety and that's subject to change over time.

    I stopped playing out about 6 or so years ago so all my playing is for me and home and I could care less about jamming, I don't even like the word jam. I'd like to simply play some tunes with someone if there was anyone but that's not looking likely.
    Thanks for your response. I've done a great deal of research over the past few weeks. Like you I wonder whether an oval hole would be more appropriate for the type of music I play but they are very few and far between and I'm not sure I want to risk buying used from an individual off the Classifieds.

    I entirely agree with you when you imply that the law of diminishing returns applies to the the cost of an instrument. I stand to be corrected but I would think once you're into the $3 - 4k area there'll be very little difference in the quality of the instrument. Of course the tonality will vary depending upon the materials/bracing etc.

    Thanks for your input anyway.

    Al

  26. #20

    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Quote Originally Posted by trevor View Post
    Hi Al,

    This is the only on that comes to mind with a pick guard.

    https://www.theacousticmusicco.co.uk...andolins-.html

    Hi Trevor,

    Thanks for directing me to that Mando. Now you come to mention it I have seen it on your website. I don't doubt it's a great instrument but it doesn't have an aesthetic that particularly appeals to me I'm afraid.

    All the Best

    Al

  27. #21
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Quote Originally Posted by NotDoneYet View Post
    Hi Ray,

    As you mention TAMCO's stock is rather depleted and I don't think he has any A Style Mandos with a pick guard. I tend to intermittently anchor on the pick guard.

    Thanks for your welcome, I'm based in Leicestershire not far from Market Harborough.

    Al
    Hi Al,
    The only builder I know in your neck of the woods is Colin Keefe in Long Eaton; although I’ve never played one of his mandolins.

    You’ve probably picked about the worst time in the past few years to go shopping for one.

    The SC 0012 sounds interesting. My mian guitar is a ‘91 TR but I also have an”F” and an OM/PW.
    Ray

  28. #22
    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    IMHO, this question has little to do with value, sound, craftsmanship, affordability or practicality! It's all about MAS! Quit trying to justify; buy!
    Rush
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    Free opinions are worth exactly what you pay for them!

  29. #23

    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Quote Originally Posted by Rush Burkhardt View Post
    IMHO, this question has little to do with value, sound, craftsmanship, affordability or practicality! It's all about MAS! Quit trying to justify; buy!
    Rush
    Hi Rush,

    Yeh, you’ve about nailed it with that comment! I’ve definitely got a bad case of MAS - but it’s all about the thrill of the chase isn’t it?

    Cheers,

    Al

  30. #24
    Registered User withfoam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Personal experience. I had a $700 Eastman, it was really nice and sufficed. Bought a KM-1050 and it was an upgrade, but not crazy upgrade on sound. Recently bit it and got a Collings MF Deluxe and holy...the difference is completely real. The sustain. The feel. It's there.

    Funny enough, getting the Collings and hearing/feeling the difference ultimately pushed me to order an Ellis. Now I wait...
    Collings MF Deluxe
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  32. #25

    Default Re: Mando upgrade - opinions sought

    Ah, yes - the wait for a commissioned new build - exquisite anticipation! Hope the Ellis is all you expect of it.

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